Canadian-based SemiosBio Technologies is definitely worthy of further analysis and due diligence. In fact, Semios recently raised more than $8 million in seed funding on top of its business model combining enabling technologies addressing a critical market need with recurring revenue and strong margins from a growing installed base of farmers.
I have evaluated hundreds of startups as investors as well as equity research analysts and investment bankers at bulge bracket firms, including Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Citi. I’ve had my fair share of failures and successes with startups companies that are starting to experience explosive revenue growth and positive earnings within sight. In addition, I have provide strategic advice to large multibillion companies operating throughout the world. In short, I have seen a lot of what makes large and small companies succeed.
Today growers representing more than 50,0000 sensors covering 10,000 acres of farmland are on the Semios Internet of Things (IoT) platform. Every farmer will own their own data. However, farmers must pay Semios an annual subscription fee of between $180 and $260/acre to access the manipulated data. Over time more and more data will be collected and shared by a larger ecosystem of farmers. This will create what economists and investors refer to as the “network effect” where the value of the Semios platform will increase as more and more farmers rely on the system and share information.
Semios provides growers a fully-integrated IoT platform to monitor pests, micro-climate and frost, weather, irrigation and evapotranspiration. Its main target are growers of high-value crops such as fruit trees, nuts and grapes that account for about 10% of farm acreage but are worth more than 10 times the value of the average crop. For example, apples and oranges could be worth more than $25,000 an acre while corn may only be worth less than $1,000 an acre.
These high-value crops also have high input costs in terms of pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and labor. Farmers are always susceptible to crop damage due to pests, disease, frost and irrigation. However, physical monitoring and detection of potential problems could take weeks and the solution may be insufficient to control the problem. There is tremendous excitement over drone technologies’ future role in crop monitoring applications. Drones will play a major role in agriculture. However, drone technology may be less useful below the canopy of high-value crops such as fruits and nuts.
The Semios platform consists of sensors throughout the farm connected wirelessly to a gateway that transmits the collected information to the cloud where the data is accessed by the Semios platform. The information is collected every 10 minutes then Semios’ proprietary algorithm and tools manipulate and examine the data to provide farmers actionable intelligence to make better decisions. In short, Semios helps farmers increase the value of their crops while reducing their operating expenses.
For example, farmers often spray crops with pesticides on a very stable basis throughout the growing season so at any moment crops may be getting too little or too much pesticide. If too much pesticide is used farmers are eating into their profits. If not enough is used, significant crop damage could occur for a much longer period of time. With Semios, a farmer can remotely measure the amount of pest pressure on a daily and site-specific basis and act accordingly.
More importantly, the Semios platform is a two-way system. It not only collects, manipulates and analyzes data, it can also receive data or commands so farmers can control connected devices manually or automatically from a remote location. This two-way capability has major advantages. A farmer would know when pests are in flight or swarming so it can take corrective measures. Second, real-time information enables farmers to avoid harmful insecticides by using organic phermones, which are only useful when pests are actually present.
In fact, Semios has a fully automated system to apply “insect-specific” phermones to an orchard based on actual field conditions. Semios also has connected leaf-wetness sensors that can differentiate between dew, frost or rain so a farmer can make make manual or automatic irrigation strategy decisions. Sensors provide farmers the data to determine whether to use expensive heaters or irrigation to prevent frost damage.
In February 2016 I wrote “AgTech has caught the attention of investors.” In fact, AgTech could play a major role in meeting the increased demand for food driven by a growing population, increased urbanization and a growing consumption class. There will be emerging technology companies that will enable growers to collect and analyze real-time data to significantly improve crop yield while reducing the demands on our natural resources such as land and water. Semios could potentially be one of those companies.